Flash Memoir: my definition

In my work as a personal historian, I often coach people on how to write, via workshops  and 1:1 coaching. This keeps me interested in new techniques and ways to approach writing. In the past few years I’ve become aware of the “Flash Fiction” movement, and I’ve wondered, don’t those techniques work as well for creative nonfiction—i.e. the memoir genre? I often bring fiction writing techniques into my workshops. Bringing “flash” techniques into writing memoir just made sense to me.

Over the next few months, I’m going to share some material from my Flash Memoir workshops, starting with definitions. For me, what defines Flash Memoir as a genre is that these essays are:

  • Free of preambles—They start at the flashpoint—the moment when conflict ignites tangible action that drives the story forward.
  • Scene-based—They frequently take place in one run of time, without jumping around.
  • Observant—They tend to feature not the “I” but the “eye.”
  • Insightful—Like a flashlight illuminating a dark corner, they explore something that provoked an insight.
  • Specific—They stick with concrete, observable events and actions rather than abstract concepts.
  • True—As a subgenre of creative nonfiction, Flash Memoir must uphold the nonfiction contract that what is reported actually happened.

Now, let’s play a game. Which of the following is NOT a Flash Memoir essay? Here are four examples: The links will take you to essays published on this blog.

Post your answer to the comments section! And stay tuned for Part 2 of this four-part series on Flash Memoir.

© Sarah White 2018

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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